Nina Shtanski: In Dublin We Will Not Discuss the Fate of the Peacekeepers

Nina Shtanski: In Dublin We Will Not Discuss the Fate of the Peacekeepers

On February 28 the regular meeting of the Permanent Conference on the political questions of the Moldovan-Pridnestrovien settlement in 5+2 format (Pridnestrovie and Moldova – as the sides of the negotiations process; Russia, Ukraine and OSCE as the mediators; the EU and the USA as the observers) is going to take place in the capital of Ireland. Before the departure of the Pridnestrovien delegation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pridnestrovie Nina Shtanski gave an interview to the Interfax's Tiraspol correspondent Igor Teplyakov.

- Nina Viktorovna, the incidents in the security zone, which happened at the beginning of this year, gave a cause for the Moldovan side once again to declare the necessity of changing the joint peacekeeping forces by the mission of civil observers of the OSCE. These demands, as reported, have been supported by the mediator – Ukraine. Is it possible that the question of the peacekeeping operation on Dniester River shall be raised on the talks which will take place on February 28 in Dublin?

- As for the attempts, we can not exclude anything. Any prognosis here may be erroneous. I can say that such questions can not be discussed in Dublin a priori. The 5+2 format should be constantly carried out only under the mandate. This mandate is defined by the Bratislava Protocol which clearly determines for what purposes this negotiating platform has been created (the Bratislava Protocol of the February 20, 2002 extended the initial five sides of the negotiations process at the expense of the observers – the EU and the USA – making it the 5+2 format – comment by the Interfax).

The questions concerning the peacekeeping operation, first of all, are discussed on the other international platforms – within the Joint Control Commission (JCC is a collective body, directing the peacekeeping operation in the Moldovan-Pridnestrovien conflict zone – comment by the Interfax). But for some reasons it became unfashionable to speak about it on the other bank of Dniester. It is not even the matter of the existence of the JCC format, but the necessity of consent of all sides to discuss the question. It is not the matter of changing the format, but the matter of discussing the format. The consent of all sides should be reached at least – that of the Russian Federation, Pridnestrovie, Moldova, Ukraine, all those who are operating in the peacekeeping mission format (Currently, the peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone is directed by the Joint Peacekeeping Forces which consist of Russian, Pridnestrovien, Moldovan contingents and of the Ukrainian military observers – comment by the Interfax).

In this connection I can tell you absolutely clear, that I have not seen the readiness of all the sides of the peacekeeping operation to discuss this question. There was a statement of the Moldovan side, which defined the position of Moldova. As for Ukraine, as it seems to me, their position was not expressed quite clear. Those two statements which I have seen did not convince me that Ukrainian side wish to raise this question. I did not form such an impression. Besides, the position of our leadership has been voiced on this question. We transmitted it also through diplomatic channels. Here, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we had many meetings, and on each of them we pointed out our position.

There are several formats of communication, several problem fields and several different agendas, and all these should be strictly observed. Otherwise we shall open the Pandora's box and turn our contacts into chaotic whirl nobody knows where and nobody knows why.

Our position is clear – we shall not discuss this question in Dublin because it is improper and untimely. Has this position been heard by the Moldovan side? I do not know. We shall hope that it has been.

Our Moldovan colleagues assured us that they will not initiate the discussion of this question because they agree it is not the proper time and not the proper place for it. We shall see how these words correspond to the reality. The European, Russian and Ukrainian colleagues – everybody, with whom I've discussed it, agreed that this question should not be raised in Dublin. But it does not guarantee, I repeat it, that someone would not be tempted into presenting this topic in a different wrapper. But our position will remain unchanged. It will not differ from what I am speaking now, in Tiraspol.

- Have You heard about any proposals or projects, being prepared for this meeting in Dublin?

- Any relations within the negotiations process are always an exchange of different projects. It will be nice if we exchange with proposals. As you probably know, the new strategy of Moldavian-Pridnestrovien settlement is going to be presented to the participants of the 5+2 format. Maybe we shall see some new interesting proposals in Dublin. I would like to hear answers on those projects of agreements which have been handed over to the Moldovan side. This concerns the resumption of the railway communication (Currently only the movement of transit freight trains is conducted through the territory of Pridnestrovie. As for the passenger trains, there are only Moscow-Chisinau, Odessa-Chisinau routes and season train Saratov-Varna plying – comment by the Interfax) and the question of the motor freight shipping (the problem of international registration of Pridnestrovien freighters – comment by the Interfax). As you know, these have been firstly discussed by the specialists in customs cooperation. Two meetings took place, but we did not get an answer. Then these projects were passed to Moldovan representative on political questions in Moldovan-Pridnestrovien settlement mister Karpov (Yevgeny Karpov – vice-premier of the Republic of Moldova, who represents official Chisinau in 5+2 format talks – comment by the Interfax).

- Once we have touched issues of the resumption of the railway communication, to what extent is the work of the Moldavian-Pridnestrovien expert groups successful in this direction?

- The work of expert groups will be resumed immediately upon returning from Dublin. There was some holdback. The set of rules and procedures for expert groups signed in Bad-Reichenhall (on September 9, 2011, in German town Bad Reichenhall the meeting of the then President of Pridnestrovie Igor Smirnov and Prime-Minister of Moldavia Vlad Filat took place - comment by the Interfax) implies that such work should be more stable and intensive than it actually is.

The reason is not that someone didn't want to intensify the work of expert groups but that we were having elections, regime was changing, and a new government was forming. Correspondingly, as soon as it had been formed, the President signed an order and approved not only working groups but even initiated creation of three new ones. Currently, ministries and institutions put forward their proposals as to the members of these groups, - there are changes there as well. As soon as we return from Dublin we will start working in this format.

- You have just referred to new expert groups. Could You, please, tell what these groups are?

 - The first group deals with cooperation in the field of education. Groups on customs cooperation will be established as well. And finally, the third group will deal with telecommunication issues.

After President of Pridnestrovie Yevgeny Shevchuk and Premier of Moldova Vlad Filat had agreed to resume the work in this area in Odessa, two meetings took place. The meetings were between customs officials of Pridnestrovie and Moldova and specialists in the sphere of telecommunication. So far, no proposals have been elaborated.

If we speak about the railway problematics, its consideration has resulted in initiation of two draft papers by the Pridnestrovien side. As for communication issues, we did not manage to move forward towards exchange of any proposals so far. I think that creation of a relevant field-specific expert group is very opportune.

- From the beginning of this year the Pridnestrovien side has made several unilateral steps towards normalization of relations with Kishinev. It is removal of a one hundred percent duty on Moldovan goods, simplification of customs and border regimes. Do You expect any reciprocal steps from Kishinev? In Your view, what should they consist of?

- Certainly, we expect reciprocal moves from Kishinev. We need political will because so many issues of socio-economic character can be solved without placing them on a shelf. There are issues requiring technical resolution which can take some time. But there are issues already agreed upon which were discussed.

The sides elaborated painful compromises arriving at protocol decisions signed by both sides, as well as guarantors and observers. We need to return to these agreements and work in compliance with them.

It is much more difficult to work out a compromise than to return to the things over which the compromise has already been reached. Apart from removal of a one hundred percent duty and simplification of border crossing I would like to note that from February 1 two Moldovan TV channels are fully transmitted in our Republic. If we speak about tactics of “small steps”, many things could be done on the part of the Moldovan side, including in the sphere of communication, functioning of post offices, and recognition of education certificates. No expenses are needed here. It is important to have a desire and try to make a step forward. Any initiative is viable when it is approved by those to whom it is directed. Otherwise, a feeling may appear that it is not entirely needed. If it is so, then, it is necessary to have the courage to say about this.

- If Kishinev shows no tactic of small steps in the opposite direction, will the Pridnestrovien side cut down everything that was done for normalization of relations?

- It would be unconstructive to make steps that will worsen that little that was created. The point is that Pridnestrovie will enter the “pause”. Such situation must not be excluded.

Any step demands a response. If there are no steps, then we will take the position of expectation – the position of evaluation. In this case we will no do it alone, other players involved into the process of settlement can also do evaluation.

- After Yevgeny Shevchuk and Vlad Filat had met in Odessa, some analysts expressed the opinion, that Ukraine had become more active in Moldova-Pridnestrovie settlement. What do you think, to what extent does it correspond to the facts? How should the relations between Tiraspol and Kiev, Tiraspol and Moscow develop?

- The relations between Tiraspol from one side and Kiev and Moscow from the other side, should develop in the most active way. Russia and Ukraine are known as guarantor states in Moldova-Pridnestrovie settlement. Besides, Ukraine is our neighbor. In his inauguration speech Yevgeny Shevchuk told that we are interested in development of good-neighborly relations with neighboring states – Ukraine and Moldova.

Indeed, the position of Pridnestrovie was not always heard. You know, that head of our state made a visit to Kiev at the beginning of this year. Within the framework of the visit rather acute issues, including the resumption of railroad communication, where Ukraine could render us assistance, and issues connected with customs regime, imposed by Ukraine in 2006, were discussed. There are also other problems that should be discussed with Ukraine. Kiev became more active, probably that is good. We would like this activization to be effective, first of all in solving of the problems of ordinary citizens.

- As far as I understand, in given case it is a matter of simplification of regime of movement of the citizens? Or something different is implied?

- We would like Ukraine to treat our problems in foreign-economic activity more attentively. Today Kiev could have made such steps which would have promoted the simplification of foreign-economic activity. Social-economical situation in Republic is very complicated, in this connection the development of frontier cooperation and trade could make medium-scale and small-scale business more active, promote the creation of new working places and the increase of  income of the population in frontier zone. This would have been very perceptibly for Pridnestroviens. Besides, this would have brought profit to many Ukrainian enterprises in frontier zone.

- Negotiations on cancellation of existing customs regime were held between Pridnestrovie and Ukraine. How much has the settlement of the present issue advanced since 2006?

- The dialogue is in progress.

- In conclusion could you outline the basic principles of Pridnestrovien foreign policy, principles on which the Pridnestrovien side intents to build relations with partners.

- Foreign policy positions of the Pridnestrovien Moldavian Republic have not changed. We sequentially come out for observance of the principle of equality of the sides during negotiations, for our position to be heard on equal basis. We want the rights of people, who chose their destiny during the Referendum in 2006 (on September 17, 2006 Pridnestrovie held the Referendum, 97.1% of Pridnestrovie voters declared for independence from Moldavia – comment by the Interfax), to be respected and the will of Pridnestroviens not to depend on any today's or tomorrow's timeserving positions of one or another force or one or another geopolitical situation.

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